An attack at a Spokane Valley home early Sunday left a woman dead, one son on life support and a second son with a slashed neck.
The suspected killer was identified as 39-year-old Jan DeMeerleer, the woman’s ex-fiance.
He was found Sunday evening inside the garage of his Northwood-area home dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Spokane sheriff’s investigators said.
The mother, who was found dead on the kitchen floor of her duplex at 622 N. Ella Rd., was identified by friends and neighbors as Rebecca Schiering.
Schiering, in her middle 30s, was owner of The Reclothery, a consignment clothing store at 613 S. Washington St. in Spokane.
DeMeerleer and Schiering had been in a relationship and living at DeMeerleer’s Northwood home in the 8300 block of East Brant Lane until about six months ago when Schiering moved into the duplex on Ella, according to investigators and neighbors.
“It’s very sad,” said neighbor Jessica Linehan, whose son played with Schiering’s children.
Another neighbor reported seeing someone in a white T-shirt move quickly in front of a window about 2 a.m., Linehan said.
Linehan and another neighbor said that Schiering appeared to have gotten involved with another man, who was seen at the duplex helping in the yard.
The neighbors and a friend said that Schiering moved out after one of the twin boys, who was autistic, was injured by DeMeerleer in a domestic violence incident.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Reagan, spokesman for both the sheriff’s office and Spokane Valley police, said DeMeerleer reportedly suffered from bi-polar mental disorder, according to interviews of people who knew him.
Spokane Valley police were alerted to the attack by the woman’s hysterical 17-year-old son, who called 911 shortly before 3 a.m. after being awakened by DeMeerleer trying to slash his throat.
The boy survived the attack but found his mother dead on the kitchen floor from an apparent gunshot wound. When police arrived at the home, they found that one of the woman’s 9-year-old twin boys also had been apparently shot in the head but was still alive, authorities said.
On Sunday evening, the boy was in critical condition and on life support at a Spokane hospital but had been declared brain dead, Reagan said.
The teen with the neck wound was treated at a Spokane hospital and later released, Reagan said.
Neighbors said the teen-ager had not been living with his mother recently, but apparently was there for the night.
Police staked out DeMeerleer’s Northwood home and initially asked for help locating his car, a silver 2005 Saab.
DeMeerleer, a mechanical engineer, was hired in 2007 as a project manager at Advanced Input Systems in Coeur d’Alene, according to an announcement at the time. He had previously worked as operations manager at ReliOn Inc. and was a 1994 graduate of Purdue University.
Records show he was divorced from Amy DeMeerleer of Spokane in 2004.
The attack prompted authorities to use a new enhanced 911 feature that sent warning calls to about 100 homes in the Northwood area of Spokane Valley to alert his neighbors to the potential danger since he was believed to be armed. Dispatchers reported that the call-back system successfully alerted at least 90 of the households.
Authorities initially thought he might be hiding there. Instead, SWAT team members found DeMeerleer’s corpse in the garage.
Schiering had overcome homelessness and personal challenges with addiction to regain control of her life in recent years.
Deena Caruso, a vintage clothing and jewelry retailer in Spokane, described Schiering as “a wonderful mother.”
“She was so strong and independent. She was a giver,” Caruso said.
Schiering belonged to the Exchange Club and was involved in fund raising for Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.
Caruso said Schiering moved out after the domestic incident involving one of the twins who suffered from autism because she wanted to make sure her children were safe.
DeMeerleer’s personal profile on a popular social networking website indicated he sought to put his family before his career.
“I’m first and foremost a family man…love my kid and potential step children,” he wrote on his Facebook profile page.
“Fatherhood suits me well. Immediate family is the primary focus of my life…my career is second.”
Deputy City Editor David Wasson contributed to this report.
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